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A Career not as a Teacher

  1. Oct 6, 2007 #1
    I want to be a theoretical physicist, and I've been looking online, and so far all I find are jobs at universities. I want to work for an independent research company. Is there such a thing? The reason I am asking is because, I am in college, and I have to write a paper about my career choice, what is my career goal, where do you want to live, and what are 3 potential employers in that area. I chose New Zealand, and
    So now what I have to do is list 3 potential employers in that area. All I can find are universities, and so far I am not directing the classes I take to the teaching category, and I haven't found one research company that does anything like what I mentioned in my paper, let alone any in New Zealand.

    Please help.

    Forget the paper I wrote, and the New Zealand stuff, I'm looking for a much more Real life answer now.
    Basically, I want to research something like theoretical particle physics, but I don't want to work for NASA, or a university, am I out of luck?
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 6, 2007 #2
    The short answer... yes. Companies don't hire people to work on particle physics or string theory. Neither of these are likely to make a profit in the forseeable future.

    It's possible that there are a few theoretical physicists in industry, but I'd wager that these scientists work in more commercially viable fields (solid state, etc.)

    Basic theoretical research belongs almost entirely to academia and government labs. And even then, mostly academia.
  4. Oct 6, 2007 #3
    Industry does hire theoretical people because they are good at solving problems no one else can solve. However, they solve practical problems using existing theory.

    I am no expert but it seems to me that most of the theoretical people do the same whether in academia or in industry. I think people who can develop valid new theories from scratch are quite rare even in academia. If that wasn't true, Physics would be a lot further a long then it is.
  5. Oct 6, 2007 #4
    I am only an undergraduate so take this with a grain of salt. I intend to go for a PhD in physics and would like to work in industry, at least for awhile. It seems that most industry positions (as one might expect) are better filled by experimental physicists. However, I have seen in various places (including PF) that PhD physicists work in finance as quants. I would guess that these people are generally theoretical physicists by training. Also, I am not sure how common these positions are.
  6. Oct 6, 2007 #5
    I think this is the most logical explanation since industry by definition exists to make money.
  7. Oct 7, 2007 #6
    Based on the title of your thread, I'm guessing that you're shying away from universities because you don't want to teach; is that correct? Many universities hire research faculty who either hardly ever or never have to teach. My graduate faculty advisor is one such professor; the only courses he "teaches" are my research credit hours. One of my coworkers (a theorist) is a research faculty member who teaches one specialty class every couple of years. Five or so of my coworkers are research faculty, but I didn't even know it until I read it on a website. They conduct research only and are paid through a university research center.
  8. Oct 7, 2007 #7
    Why couldn't it be common. I think it is not quite as rare as you think, but people are just unwilling to fund testing because it is such a gamble to anybody that has money. They probably think it is a gamble, because they understand well enough.

    Right good advice. It's probably what I will have to do. Too bad even universities are ruled by money, and if it isn't something clear cut to the person with the money, then you probably aren't going to get money for your research.

    How are we supposed to get new models for ideas to refine our understanding, if anytime a new model is suggested, they say prove it before we give you money to test it. And in order to prove it, you need money and equipment. It seems to me to be a cycle that is ruled by closed minded conventional thinking physicists, not willing to test new ideas.

    I understand that nobody is going to fund tests like that, and I understand that universities can't just throw away money, but how are we supposed to better our understanding of physics if we don't?
  9. Oct 7, 2007 #8
    Nah, I wouldn't say they are close-minded. It's that they are evaluating the risks is all. They have a limited amount of money, and there's more people with ideas to test than they can spend it on. It's sad that the days of basement physics are gone. :(
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